Brent Axe asked the question yesterday, how big will the crowd by for Syracuse vs. Wagner? He then goes on to break down all of the factors that will likely determine how big, or small, we're talking. Really, though, I have a feeling the question isn't how big will the crowd be, but, how small?
I hate that we have to have this discussion every year. I'm sure a lot of you hate that it's being written about or hate the fans that only come out when Syracuse is winning or playing a top-tier program. I'm with you. But, it's still important. Attendance is a rough estimator of how the SU fanbase feels about its football team at any given time. And considering how 2012 has gone so far, coupled with the fickle nature of some fans, it doesn't bode all that well.
The good news is, I don't think Syracuse will end up anywhere remotely near 24,605. That's the lowest season-opening attendance in Carrier Dome history. It came in 1987, of all years, against Kent State. The bad news, if you look at the list of the worst season-opening attendances (at the bottom of Brent's piece), it's almost always been against a non-BCS opponent (at the time, at least).
Last year, Syracuse packed 37,830 into the Dome for the Northwestern game. That one had the benefit of a Big Ten opponent and the fact that it was the first game of the season. The year before that it was 40,833 for Wake Forest. Again, first game of the season and an ACC opponent.
You have to go back to 2010 for a comparable situation. The Orange hosted Maine in the first home game of the season. With a 1-1 record already, the Orange grabbed 37,758.
2008 was the last time you could say Syracuse home attendance was truly depressing. The GERG Effect meant SU began the season pulling in 31,808 to see SU lose to Akron. By the end of the year, we mustered a mere 28,081 for the UConn game. Total home attendance that year was 200K, the lowest in Dome history (Seriously, thanks Greg).
Like I said, there's no reason to believe Syracuse won't at least pull in 35K on Saturday. It IS the first game of the season. The fact that the game isn't televised has to work in its favor as well. And then there's the Kids Get In Free promotion that's sure to help. Plus, you know, we did win eight games and a bowl last year. How soon we forget???
I don't think the fact that it's Scott Shafer's first home game as HC means anything as a ticket-seller. And ultimately, the deciding factor might end up being weather. If it turns out to be a beautiful day, that could know a couple K off the final number.
My guess? I'm gonna put 36,444 out there as the announced attendance. Too high? Too low? We'll find out soon enough (and make sweeping judgements based on it).